Solomon W. Russell — Philanthropist and lumber baron

Glens Falls real estate and lumber baron Solomon W. Russell was not one with a reputation of being a “pillar of the church,” but he demonstrated it is possible to be capitalistic and generous at the same time, The Post-Star editorialized in 1921.

Russell practiced philanthropy “without making a show” throughout his life, and when he died, Russell left a fortune to be divided between Glens Falls Hospital, Glens Falls Home for Aged Women, Glens Falls Y.M.C. A., and First Presbyterian Church of Glens Falls.

“Solomon W. Russell … was, to all intents and purposes, a shrewd, calculating business man. In his lifetime he had few, if any, superiors when it came to driving a bargain,” The Post-Star editorialized. “He worked hard, lived simply and denied himself many of the comforts which most men in his position would have thought necessary to their happiness.”

Russell understood that wealth was a means, not the end.

“That he loved to make money there can be no doubt. Most men are possessed of a similar inclination, but his love for making money was conceived in a desire to be of service to mankind and to further the great humanitarian work.”

Russell was born Nov. 12, 1847 in Saratoga County.

He died at 4:15 a.m. June 16, 1921, at age 73, at his home on Warren Street. He had been critically ill for several days.

Russell accumulated much of his wealth in logging, real estate investment and housing development.

He also invested in stocks and bonds.

In his latter years, he sold more than 4,000 acres of Adirondack forest land, and still owned “several thousand acres” when he died.

He constructed about 50 houses in Glens Falls, and constructed the commercial building at 26 Warren Street where Burger’s Store was located.

For a time he was a partner in a lumber and building supply business in Glens Falls, and a partner in a livery on Ridge Street.

He was director of Merchants National Bank, a local financial institution that in 1922 merged with National Bank of Glens Falls, forerunner of the local bank that eventually became part of what is now TD Bank.

Early in his career Russell was a real estate and insurance partner with Charles Cool, the first mayor of Glens Falls, and was a partner with Milo J. Gray in a venture that sold wagons and horses.

Sources: The Post-Star June 17, July 26, 1921; “Listening In” by Dennis F. O’Connell, published 2009 by City of Glens Falls.

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Maury Thompson

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY